William Kerrigan is the Cole Distinguished Professor of American History at Muskingum University. He is the author of Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard (Johns Hopkins, 2012) and co-author of several local histories. He teaches courses on American History, Ohio History, the Civil War, and Environmental History.
John Chapman’s Westward Journey
The legend of Johnny Appleseed is based upon the life of a real person. Born into a poor Yankee family on the eve of the American Revolution, the young John Chapman headed west in the last years of the 18th century. This talk recovers the life of the “real” Johnny Appleseed, teasing out fact from myth, and revealing the life of an extraordinary individual whose real story is more compelling than the myth which emerged in the years after his death.
Johnny Appleseed: St. Francis or Steve Jobs?
When John “Appleseed” Chapman died in Indiana in 1845, stories of the eccentric apple tree planter survived in the oral traditions of dozens of Midwestern communities where he had spent his life. In the decades after his death, many of these stories made it into print in regional histories and national magazines, and the legend of Johnny Appleseed was born. While many elements of the legend have remained the same over the last one hundred and sixty years, every generation has found its own uses for the Johnny Appleseed story, reinterpreting the meaning of John Chapman’s life. This talk will examine some of the most persistent variants of the Johnny Appleseed story, including one which portrays Chapman as a selfless and self-denying St. Francis and one which characterizes him as a visionary entrepreneur in the mold of that other apple salesman, Steve Jobs.
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